March 25, 2011

¡Salud! (with an update from our querido Dr. de la Concha)

Recently some blogs that I follow have been commenting about healthcare in Mexico.   On the three posts I've read I have mainly seen positive comments by Americans who have received treatment without so much hassle.  Then after one post, there was an anonymous commenter who started spreading around his or her first world / third world crap and now I have to write about it because it made me mad.

 The post basically mentioned how easy it was to have blood work done and how it is ready within a day and how convenient it is to make an appointment with a doctor, etc.  The commenter said this (verbatim): "We don't understand expats in Mexico frothing about the wonderful health care. Your "doctor" couldn't qualify for a PA license in the states. Pharmacies in Mexico now station a credentialed "MD" at a welk-up to prescribe medication. Doesn't take much thought to figure out how that's profitable for the pharmacy...If all you want is blood and pee analysis that's available like one hour photo processing most anywhere in the world. Thank your stars you have the where withall and proximity to properly trained and equiped diagnosticians in the first world should God forbid you become seriously ill. In Mexico you'll probably be too far gone before you find answers!"  
I of course couldn't leave it alone and commented on all my great experience with public and private healthcare in Mexico.  The person came back by saying that even though our pediatrician says he worked in Chicago there are other doctors who lie about having fellowships in the U.S. so it is implied our doc is lying too.  Our pediatrician did work in Chicago and would probably be offended at being called a liar.  Maybe I'll let him write his own post.  The person also said that the reason healthcare is expensive in the U.S. is because no one is turned away.  Well I happen to think that healthcare is expensive because of insurance providers adding their percentage onto EVERYTHING.   How is it that I can get a blood test here for 100 dollars and in the U.S. it costs over 500?    The whole health care issue makes my blood boil because I believe it should be free for everyone and not cause the stress that it does for people in the U.S. who all of a sudden become ill and go bankrupt trying to get well.

Please feel free to share your experiences.  I know it is an imperfect system, Mexico's healthcare, but at least it exists.  And as far as private doctors are concerned, I am convinced that they are very well qualified and am  so thankful for ours.


So this is what our pediatrician had to say to the anonymous commentator...via facebook with his permission:

Once, being a physician from Illinois, I went with my child to a pharmacy in Las Vegas with an earache secondary to otitis media. I asked him to give me an antibiotic for the infection. The pharmacist said that my licence was good in Illinois but not in Nevada, and told me that I had to see a "DR" in Las Vegas. Knowing the "perfect conditions of the USA" I went to a public phone, called the pharmacist and pescribed over the phone the antibiotic for my child. Ten minutes later I went to the pharmacy and picked up the drug and told the pharmacist that He believed me over the phone but not personally. He said that I could not do that. I said: I just did it.

I am American and the quality of life in Puebla is much better in México than in the USA. I do not owe anything, thank god!!!!!!   I am a Board certified pediatrician, granted for life in USA and I prefer the warm, personal care in México. Sorry gringo country men.

March 16, 2011

Words Not to Live By

A few months before my husband and I tied the knot, we spoke with a pastor of the church we were planning on attending as a married couple.  I was still living in Georgia, teaching and planning our wedding and hubby was living here and working so it was difficult to have any sort of pre-marital counseling.  We thought we should at least talk to this pastor and get a few words of advice before the big day.

These are a few of the choice morsels we walked away with:  1. "Don't get married.  It's a bad idea to mix cultures."  (By the way, this pastor was American.)  2. "If you have to get married make sure you have a washing machine. I know of a couple who split up over that and the wife was American."  3. "My wife and I have never yelled or had any heated fights.  We always stay up all night until things are resolved, so we never go to sleep angry."

We were definitely shaken by those words but decided to get married and defy the odds that were so highly stacked up against us, according to that guy.  Here are a few things I've learned over the past ten years: 1. Whoever said they have never yelled or had a heated fight or stays up all night to talk things through every time there is a disagreement is a liar.  2. I'm very glad to have mixed cultures.  It is definitely never dull around here.  I'm glad to have two sweet little mocha-colored boys who are the best of both our worlds.  3. It's nice having a washing machine but I don't think that has saved my marriage.  4.  Marriage is hard no matter what your circumstances are. If you want it to last you are always going against the odds.  5.  I wouldn't trade my husband for anyone in the world.  I have NO regrets.

We didn't last too long at that pastor's church.  If I ever run into him again I don't know if I'd even want to talk to him but I would just like to smile and let him see me happily walk by with my husband and two gorgeous babies.

Staring Contest

What is it with the staring?  There are days when I ignore it and days when I tolerate it but mostly it just annoys me.  I don't think I'll ever be used to it.  As I was waiting to shower my kids after swimming class last night, two little girls gawked at us as we spoke in English to each other.  Then in the parking lot a kid literally walked up to us and stood there staring at us long enough for it to be weird.  I know we speak a different language and I also know that kids stare a lot ... but it still annoys me.  Usually it's the adults who stare and like the kids, they don't easily look away.  I know that people are curious but why is it so culturally acceptable to gawk?  (And don't even get me started on people breathing down my neck when standing in lines...I'll save that rant for another day.)

I remember on my first anniversary, my husband and I took a trip to New York City to celebrate.  It was our first time there and we really loved visiting all the tourist locations and meeting up with friends.  But of all the awesome experiences we had there, the part I remember most fondly is that NOBODY stared at us.   Nobody cared what language we spoke or what we looked like.  It was great.  I loved hearing snatches of all different kinds of dialects and languages and seeing the cultural variety of people.  Maybe it was me doing the staring, but just a little.

I wonder if the staring is worse in smaller towns.  What do you do when people are staring at you?  

March 8, 2011

Yeah for technology!

I'm definitely not a techie type person.  I can barely scan a document and usually afterwards can't even find it.  I like blogging but I'm still trying to figure some things out.  I know my four and six year old boys will have surpassed me in the next few years as far as computer know-how is concerned.  I'm ok with that, as long as they can be patient with me in the future!  I didn't even know my phone could have apps until this past December when my sister-in-law asked me if I had a smart phone and then proceeded to explain to me what that was.   So I guess it's safe to say that I was the last person who'd have thought that I would want to use an e-reader.  But guess what?  Yeah for e-readers!

I got my kindle at Christmas in the States.  Usually in a year I read around 10 to 12 books depending on if I find anything I like in Sanborns and what people loan me that's in English.  I can read in Spanish but it's slow-going unless I'm really into the book and I usually just get tired and quit the book.  So, I had definitely been in a reading desert for quite some time.  Not anymore!  Since January I have read eight books and am now on my ninth.  I am thrilled to be reading things I like to read and I really have to limit myself to a book a week or I will stay up all night reading!   I just finished Room last week. I can't stop thinking about that book and I definitely recommend it.  Now I'm on Oliver Twist and loving it.  I'm glad there are free books out there because this has the potential of becoming an expensive habit.

After years of reading leftovers and borrowed books, I am in reader heaven.

March 2, 2011


When I graduated from GSU with my highly useful bachelor's degree in English Lit, I decided I wasn't quite finished getting to know Mexico and began looking online for opportunities to live with a Mexican family while continuing to learn Spanish. I found a one-year long program called Spearhead sponsored by the Latin America Mission. The program consisted of language learning while living in Mexican families and serving in some capacity in a church. I was accepted to the program and packed my bags for Mexico City.  Again, I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

 Since Mexico City is so enormous, I learned to use the metro and travelled on it daily for an hour or two, depending on the destination.  The metro in itself is an unforgettable experience, with vendors selling everything from books on how to make the best cocktails to pirated music blared out of a portable boombox strapped to the salesman. It's a bonus when the person with the boombox also has a microphone and is singing for tips.  I learned to stand or sit, if I was lucky enough to find a seat, far away from "metro men" (not metrosexual).  A metro man is that man with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel, hairy chest with silver or gold chains, a silver tooth or teeth, mullet hair, who thinks he is a sex symbol and God's gift to women.  I also learned that in a city of 30 million or so, a lot of crazy people use the metro. A few times I got yelled at by random crazy people.  And forget personal space at rush hour.  I literally would shove myself into the throng of people to fit in some days. I learned that the best technique is like throwing yourself backwards into a swimming pool. That way you can really force yourself inside.  That technique also works for getting out of the metro when it's packed.

I tried lots of interesting foods that year.  Since the program mainly worked with lower middle class families and churches, we were taught to eat all of what was served to us, no matter what.  For the most part the food I tried was really delicious.  But a few times I choked down a meal and waited until it was fully digested to ask what I had eaten.  One of those times I found out later that I had eaten moronga rellena, which is blood filled intestines.  Another time I walked into my host family's home and was almost knocked over by the steamy stench of something in a large pot.  I asked my host mother what she was cooking and she answered, "pancita".  Pancita is menudo and thankfully I have never had to eat it.  I think maybe if I hadn't smelled it first I would've been able to stomach it.  Some foods are like that...the smell can keep you from trying it.  My brother once came to visit me and I tried to get him to eat elotes, which is corn on the cob with lime, mayonnaise, cheese and chili pepper.  He smelled the cheese, which is of the stinky variety, and decided he didn't like it.

I think the most stretching part of my time with Spearhead was living with families.  Looking back it's hard to remember what was so tough, but I realize that's because I understand and love this culture now.  Back then everything was foreign.  I remember even the jokes were impossible to understand.  I was a very rule-oriented person.  As a culture, Americans are more follow the rules, stand in line (no cutting) kind of people compared to Mexicans.  We have a very clear sense of right and wrong, black and white.  Well, at least that's the way I was raised.  Here it's kind of almost all gray.  I say that in a good way.  But back then, it was very shocking and my judgemental self had a hard time accepting without giving an opinion about everything.  My host family pushed their small daughter under the turnstile in the metro so she didn't have to pay the ticket and to me that was stealing.  Now I look back and think, "poor family" because they literally couldn't pay for her ticket.  Now I understand how the system makes it impossible for that kind of family to get ahead.  Now I don't judge as easily.

Culture stress (shock/ whatever) was explained to me like a person floating down a river on a raft that suddenly breaks apart and leaves the person grasping onto a plank.  Eventually another person, of the culture that is stressing you out, comes along down the river and offers a piece of their raft (of a different color), and in the meantime the person finds another bit of their own raft and so on, so that in the end the newly constructed raft is now made up of different colors, representing a mix of cultures.  When I first saw that illustration I laughed to myself, "yeah right, that's not going to happen for me".  I was in the midst of a culture shock akin to me floating on the raft surrounded by crocodiles and the only escape was to duck into Kentucky Fried Chicken where a biscuit and some fake mashed potatoes made me forget it all.  That is literally where I would stop everyday on the way home from language school.  But eventually, I did start to understand the jokes and let my judgemental self shift a bit and even start to break a few rules.  Of course that happened over a very extended period of time.  I guess you could say I'm floating down the river on a red, white blue and green raft these days.